IT certifications or soft skills: What’s more important for raising pay?

Some reports have shown that IT certifications are losing their importance for job seekers, as employers pay more attention to non-technical soft skills. But a recent study says the value of certifications is rising for IT pros. 

A 2011 report from Foote Partners found that salary gains attributed to IT certifications had been on the decline since 2007.

However, the latest Foote report saw a reversal of that trend — after losses in 11 straight quarters, premium pay for the 289 IT certifications the research firm tracks went up 0.84% from April to June 2013.

The top gains were seen in certifications related to:

  • Architecture and project management (a 1.8% increase in value)
  • Databases (1.5% increase), and
  • IT security (1.4% increase).

Meanwhile, the value of application development and programming certifications declined by 3.1% over the same time period, according to Foote.

Other skills becoming important

The report’s authors say the value of IT certifications should continue increasing as long as the economy stays healthy and both employers and vendors that promote certifications continue having strong budgets.

However, it’s not only IT certifications that will influence pay for tech pros — in fact, skills without certifications, including non-technical soft skills, are taking over as a more important factor, Foote says.

The value of non-certified skills also rose by 0.84% in the last quarter, with the hottest categories including:

  • Management skills (6.3% gain)
  • Database skills (4.3% gain), and
  • Messaging and communication skills (1.9% gain).

However, several other non-certified skills decreased in value, including:

  • Enterprise business application skills (down 2.4%)
  • Systems and networking skills (down 1.3%), and
  • Operating systems skills (down 1.1%).

The bottom line: The role of the IT department is changing, and the skills organizations look for when hiring technology employees are evolving, too.

In part due to trends like cloud computing and the consumerization of IT, purely technical skills are becoming less important than the ability to understand the needs of the business, communicate with leaders throughout the organization, and other critical soft skills.

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